[E3 2013] Knack, Knack, He's A Smashing Maniac

We got a chance to break in Knack this week.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: June 13, 2013
Mark Cerny is something of a legend in the gaming community. Despite not even having reached his 50's yet, he was an influential part of the formative years of the industry. He programmed the seminal Marble Madness, worked on a number of Sega Master System games and then was an early leader in 3DO development. He then moved over to Sony where he was lead designer on flagship franchises like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Daxter. Heck, he even served as a consultant on games like Resistance, Uncharted, Killzone 3 and God of War III. That's quite a resume!

Since then he's taken over as lead design architect on the PS4 and Director of the launch title Knack. Given his pedigree we were pretty excited to get a chance to really get down with the demo at E3. We weren't disappointed.

While there wasn't much of the narrative in the demo we played, there was a wide range of gameplay on display. The core is similar to a modern "platformer" in that you chug through linear levels and smack around some bad guys. Your character appears to be made of shards of random metal and he attacks his enemies with the brute force of his "fists". At the start we ran down city streets dispatching the bad guys and occasionally smashing various objects that would release "sun shards" which power your special powers. Smashing relics add more shards to your body and increase your size, and exploring hidden areas can reveal parts that are eventually combined into useful stuff like the ability to get sun shards from fallen enemies. Those shards would fill up your special meter that can unleash various high-powered attacks like a large area-of-effect explosion or turn knack into a whirling tornado of devastation.

As the demo went on, we experienced stealth levels where Knack would lose his shards and become a tiny little robot-looking guy who couldn't fight but could sneak past lasers and fit into vents. Kind of like if Knack was both Ratchet AND Clank. Later on we were treated to an ice level which played largely the same as the first level. Finally we played a level where Knack had grown large. Very large. Like the size of a building large, and he could pick up cars and truck and throw them at pesky planes and helicopters that harassed him.

While we weren't treated to much of the narrative, and what we did play was pretty easy (I didn't come close to dying even once) the whole demo gave of a really good vibe. The simple controls and whimsical graphics mean this game can be enjoyed by the whole family, but there is enough depth there for more serious gamers to sink their teeth into. Knack certainly seems like a worthy title to launch alongside a new platform.